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Participation and Interest Groups. Or, “Who Makes the Laws and How Do They Do It?”. Interest Groups. An interest group is an organized collection of individuals bound by shared attitudes and concerns who make demands on political institutions

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participation and interest groups

Participation and Interest Groups

Or, “Who Makes the Laws and How Do They Do It?”

interest groups
Interest Groups
  • An interest group is an organized collection of individuals bound by shared attitudes and concerns who make demands on political institutions
  • Most organizations are NOT formed for political purposes.
  • Only 10% of people participate in groups which are interest groups
group membership
Group Membership
  • 75% of Americans belong to some type of organization, with 50% belonging to two or more
  • Higher income, education and living standards are more likely to belong to groups
  • More women than men; more older than younger; more Anglos than minorities
  • People join for personal and material benefits, social benefits and personal satisfaction
pluralism and democratic theory
Pluralism and Democratic Theory
  • James Madison warned about the mischief of factions that would attempt to impose their will on government
  • Pluralism is the theory that political influence is shared by diverse and competing interest groups
elitist alternative
Elitist Alternative
  • Elitism is the theory that a few individuals control enormous political power by virtue of their position in large organizations or through their personal wealth
  • People who subscribe to this system believe that any organization will produce an “oligarchy” and that any organization will be subjected to the iron rule of oligarchy
elitist generalizations
Elitist Generalizations
  • Power is held by a few individuals, derived from their position
  • Historically wealthy, older, well-educated and white male
  • Consensus and cohesion on primary interests and values
  • Network of interlocking memberships
  • Few individuals make most policy decisions
  • Elections have limited effect on policy
texas history
Texas history
  • Elitists believe that Texas was dominated for many years (mid-30’s to mid-50’s) by the Establishment, a loosely knit group of businessmen, bankers, oilmen and attorneys
  • Traditionalistic-Individualistic political culture was conducive to a conservative group
hyperpluralism and more
Hyperpluralism and More
  • Hyperpluralism is interest group power run amuck
  • Some believe that an iron triangle has been created, where power resides in the relationship between interest groups, legislative committees and administrative agencies
  • Single-issue groups push one position and rarely compromise
interest group resources
Interest Group Resources
  • Size may be important, does not guarantee power
  • Geographic distribution can help
  • Financial resources are critical
  • Reputation is critical – lying or distorting damages relationships with lawmakers
  • Leadership and staff
dominant texas interest groups
Dominant Texas Interest Groups
  • Business
    • Broad-based associations represent business and industry in general (Tex. Assn. Of Business, Chambers of Commerce)
    • Trade associations (Texas Bankers, Texas Restaurant, Associated General Contractors)
    • Hired lobbyists
    • Usually bank against labor, consumer advocates and trial lawyers
dominant texas interest groups11
Dominant Texas Interest Groups
  • Professional Groups
    • Texas Medical Association
    • Texas Trial Lawyers
    • Tort law fight remains ongoing
  • Education
    • UT/A&M Systems, along with alumni
    • Teachers associations, school boards and administrators
dominant texas interest groups12
Dominant Texas Interest Groups
  • Public Interest Groups
    • Texans for Lawsuit Reform
    • Common Cause
    • Sierra Club
    • AARP
  • Minorities
    • NAACP
    • LULAC
    • MALDEF
dominant texas interest groups13
Dominant Texas Interest Groups
  • Labor
    • Texas is a right-to-work state, meaning that union membership cannot be required as a condition of employment
    • AFL-CIO (umbrella organization)
    • Communication Workers of America (phone)
    • Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
    • Not very powerful in the state right now
dominant texas interest groups14
Dominant Texas Interest Groups
  • Governmental lobbyists
    • Texas Association of Counties
    • Texas District and County Attorneys
    • Texas Municipal League
    • Harris County
  • Agriculture (Farm Bureau, Cattle Raisers)
  • Religious (Baptist General Convention, Christian Coalition)
lobbyists
Lobbyists
  • Nearly 2,000 lobbyists, all of whom must register with Texas Ethics Commission
  • Most are former legislators
  • Some hired for general purposes, some for specific policy areas including specific bills
  • Successful ones have great understanding of legislative process
policymaking process
Policymaking Process
  • Lobbying is simply the practice of attempting to influence the decisions of government
  • Indirect lobbying
    • Electoral activities
      • Candidate support
      • Financial support (PAC – political action committee)
      • Federal law limits to $2000 per candidate per giver; no such state limit
      • No corporate support directly to candidate
policymaking process17
Policymaking Process
  • Indirect Lobbying
    • Public Opinion
      • Use media to cultivate favorable opinion
      • Mobilize public support (tort law)
    • Protests and Marches
  • Direct Lobbying
    • Drafting legislation
    • Planning and implementing legislative strategy
policymaking process18
Policymaking Process
  • Direct Lobbying
    • Personal contact and communication (especially during the session, but usually done away from the Capitol)
    • Testimony at hearings
    • Interest group coalition
pluralism
Pluralism
  • Characteristics of pluralism
    • Groups form the primary action in policy, giving individuals political resources and a contact point within government
    • Politics is group interaction and public policy results from resolution of group conflict
    • No one group can dominate since there are so many
    • Most people don’t actively participate
    • Most group leaders are committed to democratic values, which serves a check and balance function
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